Stem cells used to treat leukaemia in toddler Arlo

Stem cell donation is vital

Toddler Arlo Brown was diagnosed with the rare blood cancer myelomonocytic leukaemia in April. Seriously ill, he underwent a stem cell transplant in August. He is still very poorly but according to recent newspaper reports, is showing signs of recovery, although he relies on regular blood transfusions and a tube for his food and medication.

While his family wait to see if the transplant has worked for little Arlo, a huge fundraising campaign has started to raise awareness of the life changing impact of stem cell and bone marrow donations.

His parents Paul and Jodie Brown are urging people to find out if they are eligible to become donors through the charities DKMS and Anthony Nolan, and want to raise awareness of how easy it is to donate stem cells.

Find out more about the work Anthony Nolan does and how to be a donor here

Precious umbilical cord blood cells are so important

Why is it so important to consider either banking or donating your baby’s umbilical cord blood?

All of the blood cells in your body start out as immature cells called hematopoietic cells which are very young, and not fully developed.

These are the same stem cells that are found in your baby’s umbilical cord blood and they can mature into any type of blood cell, depending on what the body needs when each stem cell is developing.

Stem cells for transplants come from the bone marrow (from you or someone else); the blood stream (peripheral blood from you or someone else) and umbilical cord blood from newborns.

The blood of newborn babies usually has large numbers of stem cells. After birth, the blood that’s left behind in the placenta and umbilical cord (known as cord blood) can be taken and stored for later use in a stem cell transplant. Cord blood can be frozen until it is needed.

A cord blood transplant uses blood that is normally thrown out after a baby is born. If you choose to bank it, a specially trained person – a phlebotomist – will carefully collect this blood.

Stem cells in umbilical cord blood can be used to treat leukemia

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine led by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre found that in patients at high risk of relapse after transplant, cord blood recipients seem to have better outcomes against leukaemia and the related bone marrow myelodysplastic syndrome. 

The study found that the probability of overall survival after receiving a transplant from a cord-blood donor was at least favourable as those who had received a transplant from an HLA-matched (human leukocyte antigen) unrelated donor, and was considerably higher than those who had received a transplant from an HLA-mismated unrelated donor.

Stem cells in umbilical cord blood are less developed than in adult stem cells, and they don’t have to be ‘matched’ as stringently to a patient’s human leukocyte antigen, or HLA type. 

HLA genes are part of everyone’s unique genetic background that determines the likelihood of rejecting donor stem cells.

Doctors will typically look our for a ten out of ten match of HLA genes between patients and donors, but if such a perfect match doesn’t exist among relatives or unrelated donors, they will often go with an eight out of ten, or nine out of ten match.

Transplants from such ‘mismatched’ donors may be better than no transplant at all, but, according to studies such as the one described, cord blood transplants may be the best option of all.

If you are considering banking your baby’s umbilical cord blood please talk to Biovault Family and we can answer all your questions. 

Email us at, or find us on Facebook and send us a message.

You can read more about umbilical cord blood and cancers in our Health Hub


The Anthony Nolan Trust was set up in 1974 by Shirley Nolan’s whose her three-year-old son Anthony was in urgent need of a bone marrow transplant. Shirley set up the world’s first register to match donors with people in desperate need.

The New England Journal of Medicine

Parents Guide to Cord Blood 

To date, there have been over 35,000 cord blood transplants world-wide, and most of them were for leukemias and other blood disorders (Ballen Verter Kurtzberg 2015).

 Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation at

Health Day Article describing a Study in 2016
stem cell preservation

BSc (Hons) Microbiology

Chief Executive Officer | Biovault Family

Biovault Family CEO, Kate Sneddon, joined Biovault in July 2009 and became Chief Executive Officer in 2016. As health industry professional her experience includes working as a microbiologist and leader at GSK for over 10 years. Her expertise in cord blood banking has been recognised in her awards, features in Parliamentary Review and Parents Guide to Cord Blood, as well as contributions to research with UCL and others.

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